As the final quarter of the year rapidly approaches, businesses in nearly every industry are preparing for the busiest season of the year. From Halloween to New Year’s, in cities and towns across the country, Americans venture out in greater numbers to prepare for the holidays, visit family, dine out, celebrate and travel. But with all the merriment comes the prospect of security incidents, ranging anywhere from theft and violence to traffic accidents and severe weather emergencies.
Throughout the holidays, a surge of people crowd retail stores, visit banks and other financial institutions, and attend parties, concerts and other events. And while everyone is out and about, celebrating, shopping and often carrying large amounts of money, the need for security is significantly heightened.
In this blog, we’ll explore the need for greater security during the holiday season, with a focus on three areas that most often experience theft, fraud, traffic problems and other challenges this time of year.
The holiday season represents a lucrative time for retailers. In fact, some bring in as much as 30 percent of their annual sales between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, according to the National Retail Foundation. However, this time period also means a spike in security risk.
In the face of growing online competition, brick-and-mortar stores up the ante every holiday season, offering deeper discounts and more compelling specials to draw people through their doors. Meanwhile, big brands often choose the holidays to release highly-anticipated new products, such as the latest version of the iPhone. During these hectic shopping days, foot traffic increases, people are more likely to feel stressed and tired, and everyone seems to be in a rush. These factors combine to create several security risks:
- Increased likelihood of shoplifting
- Greater incidence of return fraud
- Threat of arguments and physical violence
- Greater likelihood of parking-lot traffic accidents
In the midst of all this potential chaos, the threat from inside also grows. Many retailers find that internal theft spikes during the holidays. This may happen because there is greater opportunity—after all, management has other things to focus on—or due to an increased need, as retail employees who are also stressed by the demands of the season may feel tempted to swipe a little cash or a coveted gift item.
Retailers should take these factors seriously and recognize that they may require an enhanced physical security presence in order to avoid a spike in shrink, as well as customer altercations and traffic problems—and all the bad publicity that can come with these incidents. Retail stores benefit from hiring off-duty police officers to help direct traffic and provide parking lot security, guard store entrances and exits, actively patrol the store floor, watch for shoplifters and fraud, keep an eye on employees, and secure warehouses and loading ramps.
As retail spending spikes during the holidays, it comes as no surprise that banks, credit unions and other financial institutions also see an uptick in traffic toward the end of the year. Many of these businesses offer short-term loans, low interest rates and other incentives for customers looking to make large purchases.
Again, with increased foot traffic comes increased risk. Employees and security guards can easily miss suspicious behavior, and “customers” may take advantage of distractions to run scams. The same is true for employees, who may take the opportunity to swipe a few extra bills when no one is looking.
In addition, many financial institutions shut down for extended periods of time over the holidays, leaving their facilities vulnerable to break-ins, vandalism and ATM theft. The vulnerability of these locations—when they are both open and closed—points to a need for an enhanced security presence during the holidays. Additional off-duty police officers can keep an eye on entry and exit points, serve as a deterrent at ATMs and teller windows, and provide an overall security presence in order to discourage people from risky or violent behavior. When problems do occur, they can confront them immediately in the hopes of achieving a quick resolution.
Event venues also become incredibly busy during the holidays, hosting everything from seasonal concerts and performances to corporate holiday parties and postseason NFL games. Event facilities of all sizes can get rowdy during the holidays, especially as attendees unwind with alcohol. And some larger events, such as big-name concerts and sporting events, could be targeted by active shooters and even terrorists looking to make news over the holidays.
In parking areas, winter weather and crowds can exacerbate traffic problems and lead to accidents. Perhaps it’s no surprise that even the happiest holiday events occasionally end with a few thrown fists.
Any event that includes crowds of people, challenging parking logistics and/or alcohol should include a physical security presence—particularly when weather might be a factor. This is especially true during the holidays, when people are often under extra stress. Again, off-duty police officers can make a significant difference in these situations by guarding entries and exits and directing traffic, as well as by doing active patrol during the event and helping to resolve any issues.
Securing Your Facility or Event
Of course, the areas of retail, finance and events aren’t the only ones that require an extra security presence over the holidays. The combination of stress, increased travel, an uptick in spending and other factors around the holidays also means places like convenience stores, restaurants and even hospitals will be busier than usual and may require supplemental security. Meanwhile, facilities such as schools and construction sites are typically closed and may need temporary off-duty police officers to prevent theft and vandalism, as well as handle any incidents.
Regardless of the type of facility or event you have, it’s important to recognize the increased need for security over the busy holiday season. A variety of factors combine to intensify security threats nearly everywhere. However, in most cases, simply increasing your security presence using off-duty police officers can greatly improve the safety and security of your facility. As a result, your customers, employees and guests can enjoy a happier, safer holiday season.